An Education for Life
Dr. Montessori’s philosophy is based on the principle that children learn best within an environment prepared to nurture and enhance each child’s unique development. Rather than following a fixed program or schedule, children learn by working with specialized educational equipment that captivates their attention, inviting them to examine, manipulate and discover. Individualized lessons are given by the teacher to each child. The materials and method change in response to each particular stage of development in order to provide the most favorable response to each child’s needs. Our program is divided into multi-age classrooms; each classroom functions as a prepared environment where peer and group learning take place. Children participate in activities designed to nurture cognitive, emotional, and social development. Self-motivation, independence and responsibility are fostered.
The Montessori classroom meets state curriculum guidelines; however, the areas of study vastly surpass these guidelines. Areas of study include reading/literature, writing (creative and with a purpose), spelling, math, geometry, science (including emphasis on botany and zoology), geography and history. Instruction begins with the whole and moves to the detail. There is use of concrete materials and/or visual aides to teach concepts and explain the how and why of concepts. Lessons are taught in small groups with occasional individual lessons.
Dr. Maria Montessori said, “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” (To Educate the Human Potential. 1948) Cosmic Education gives the children the “whole” and the ability to see how the parts of the whole are interconnected and their place in the world. It instills a sense of gratitude for everything organic and inorganic that came before them. It instills a sense of responsibility that rests with them to preserve the earth and make it better for future generations. Along with the realization that we must take care of our environment and universe for future generations, comes the realization that this cannot be achieved without peace. Five Great Lessons-impressionistic stores that inspire and ignite the imagination, interest, and curiosity in the children rather than as a listing of facts are shared. These stories are: The Coming of the Universe and the Earth, The Coming of Life, The Coming of Human Beings, The Story of Language and Writing, and the Story of Numbers.
Offering a mixed-age classroom promotes cooperation, peer tutoring, and friendships of various ages. When the community has a mixed-age group the older children offer help to the younger children, which assists the older children in perfecting their own academic and developmental skills. By giving that help, they enhance their own development. Younger children enthusiastically learn and are inspired and motivated by the older children. Eventually, the younger children become the leaders and role models. The interaction among the various age groups aids in communication, team building, and leadership skills. Children are often found complimenting each other on their work instead of comparing their work. A teaching of the Rabbis says “Kol Yisroel Aravim Zeh La Zeh”; every Jew is responsible for the other. The mixed-age grouping gives way to putting this very special mitzvah into practice.
These are small group “field trips.” Going-out guides the children in developing life skills that facilitate transition into the world as young adults. The children involved organize the event from start to completion. They use the resources of the community in preparation for the going-out experience. They initiate the research, make the needed phone calls, set appointments if necessary, obtain and arrange drivers, and complete the appropriate paper work (forms, permission slips, etc.) Upon return from the trip, they present their experience and findings to the class.
A Peaceful Community
It is written in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fathers, that we should be like Aharon, (brother of Moses) a man who was “Ohev Shalom, V’rodef Shalom” “Lover of peace and chased after peace”. In this vein, an important emphasis is placed on Peace Education in our classrooms. The children learn the importance of respect for oneself, others, and the materials. Because there is an emphasis on creating a peaceful community, this leads to self-discipline and maturation within the child. A class meeting is attended by the children in which a peace object is passed around the circle and each child has the opportunity to thank or highlight the strengths of another student. Comments that might be heard are, “I want to thank (child’s name) for helping me with the fraction material” or “I want to compliment (children’s names) for their work on the pin map.” Occasionally, you may even hear a child apologize publicly for hurting another child’s feelings. Children are also taught to practice conflict resolution strategies so that they learn how to peacefully find satisfying solutions to conflicts that may occur. This atmosphere encourages application of the Torah’s commandment of Ahavat Yisroel, loving your fellow Jew.